Pain Free Working

Best Tabata Workouts for the Office

There are numerous workout styles designed to help anyone who wants to meet their fitness goals. There are workout routines to help you lose weight, increase your strength, improve your flexibility, and the like. There are full workouts that are better done with gym equipment, and there are also exercises that can be done without needing anything but yourself.

One workout style that you can do without having to use huge fitness equipment is the Tabata workout. If you have no idea what a Tabata workout is, strap yourself in and learn all about it here! 

What is a Tabata Workout?

Created by Japanese researcher Izumi Tabata, Ph.D., the Tabata workout was a part of a landmark 1996 study at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo to improve the performance of elite speed skaters. The research was conducted with two groups of athletes. The first group of athletes who participated in the study were asked to work out on an exercise bike, training for an hour at a moderate intensity five days a week, for a total of six weeks.

On the other hand, the second group trained for four minutes, five days a week. Their exercise routine involved pedaling as fast as possible for 20 seconds, then followed by 10 seconds of rest. They repeated the cycle for seven to eight rounds. 

The researchers found that the second group showed significant improvement in their aerobic fitness, as well as an increase in their ability to generate short, intense bursts of energy (anaerobic capacity) and use oxygen efficiently in a workout (VO2 max). 

While the study has inspired similar styles of exercise, the only true Tabata workout is one that is done in four minutes. Anything that falls out of the four-minute format isn’t Tabata but high-intensity interval training or HIIT instead. 

Tabata vs High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Now, you may be wondering, what’s the difference between high-intensity interval workouts and Tabata workouts? First, let’s define HIIT workouts. High-intensity interval workout is an umbrella term for a variety of exercises that include short bursts of powerful movement followed by regular short rest periods. 

You may be asking — doesn’t Tabata also involve short bursts of powerful movement followed by short rest periods? It does. The basic template of Tabata training is working out as hard as possible for 20 seconds, resting for 10 seconds, and completing eight rounds. However, the difference between Tabata and HIIT is that in Tabata training, you do the same exercise for four minutes while HIIT routines are for time or reps and can consist of a variety of movements. Your heart rate during a Tabata exercise needs to spike up to 90 to 92 percent of your maximum heart rate while circuit classes are in the area of 75 to 80 percent.

Tabata for Beginners

Doing a full-body Tabata workout can be a great way to improve your overall fitness. To get the most out of it, you need to ensure that you’re varying your exercise selection to test different muscle groups and to avoid injury. For Tabata beginners, here are some things that you should keep in mind: 

  • Remember to get your heart rate high enough. Not doing so means you are doing a high-intensity exercise instead of true Tabata. 
  • Choose an activity that can raise your heart rate but isn’t so difficult that you’ll quit after only a few rounds.
  • Do compound exercises and avoid isolation exercises. Compound moves involve using multiple muscle groups, making them ideal for Tabata routines.
  • Tabata fitness routines should be done only two or three times a week. Any more than that and you can risk injuring yourself.
  • Tabata exercises can also be done on a fitness bike, rowing machine, or with bodyweight exercises. You can also start by using a jump rope or jogging on a treadmill.

Best Tabata Exercises

As Tabata is a type of exercise that incorporates a lot of bodyweight movements, it can be done anywhere and anytime. The high-intensity, four-minute Tabata workout was originally designed for advanced athletes, and experts recommend having at least a little athletic experience before jumping into Tabata.

If you’re a beginner, don’t fret, for you can still do this workout style. Beginners should stick to simple movements that have a low risk of injury even when tired. 

If you’re an intermediate or advanced athlete, body weight movements may not be enough to get your heart pumping at its maximum state. Adding dynamic movements can increase your intensity, improve your power output, and enhance your ability to use oxygen during a workout. That said, give one of these Tabata workouts a try: 


Start the movement by standing with your feet hip-width apart, toes parallel to one another. Engage your glutes and core, and then send your hips back as you sink into a squat. From the bottom of your squat, give your all-out effort to explode upwards, getting both of your feet off the floor. Land lightly on your toes and immediately sink into your next squat. This is one rep. Repeat. 

High Knees

For this one, begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart. Raise your hands to hip height and look straight ahead. Next, quickly run in place, lifting your knees as high as possible. Land softly on the balls of your feet every time your foot comes to the floor. Left and right count as one repetition. Don’t forget to maintain a good posture as you do this; keep your neck long, push your shoulders back, and don’t slouch. 

Front Lunges

Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms reaching straight up, or with your hands on your hips. Next, step forward using one leg, bending both knees to drop your hips. Lower yourself until your rear knee is close to touching the floor and your front knee is positioned directly above your ankle.

Power through your front heel, pushing off to return to the start position. Left and right count as one rep. Remember to keep your core engaged, neck long, shoulders back and away from ears as you do this exercise. 


Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, hands behind your head. Next, press your lower back against the floor as you roll your shoulders up and forward. Lift your shoulder blades about four inches off the floor, contracting your abs while at the top. Slowly lower your torso back down to the floor in order to complete one rep. 


From a standing position, squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Place your palms on the floor and kick your feet back as far as you can while keeping your arms extended. As soon as your feet land, jump them back in towards your hands. Next, jump into the air, land, and then immediately pull yourself down to do the next rep. Do as many burpees as you can in 20 seconds.

Jumping Jacks

Doing jumping jacks can help in strengthening the cardiovascular system. For a jumping jack, start standing with your palms at your sides, and legs together. Bend your knees slightly and then jump your feet out to the sides. At the same time, circle your arms laterally and then overhead. Jump back to return to the starting position. Repeat as many reps as you can in 20 seconds.

Mountain Climbers with Single-Leg Push-Up

Begin in a high plank position. Next, perform a mountain climber by quickly driving your right knee to your chest and then your left foot to your chest. Extend your left leg, bend your elbows, and then lower your upper half into a push-up. 

Lift your extended leg higher than hip height. Return to the plank position, placing your extended leg back on the floor. Do a mountain climber with your left leg so that you end up doing push-ups with the right leg. Repeat for 20 seconds, and then followed by 10 seconds of rest.

Final Note

Tabata-style exercises can improve a person’s body and fitness levels in a very short period of time. Tabata can also help build your stamina and your strength. Remember, if you feel any discomfort, it’s best to stop doing the exercise and consult with a professional on how to proceed in a safe manner. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I do an advanced Tabata workout if I’m a seasoned athlete?

If you’re a well-conditioned athlete, you can do the traditional Tabat format, doing eight rounds of 20 seconds of maximum effort, 10 seconds of rest, and doing three to four exercises that use a lot of strength and power. Remember, only add more workouts to your routine once you’re able to execute them with the proper form. 

Tricia Montano

Tricia founded Pain Free Working in 2019 due to suffering from degenerative disc disease in her L5-S1 from working an office job for the past 18 years. She and her team strive on finding and reviewing the best office equipment to help fellow pain sufferers find relief and to enable people like her to do their jobs comfortably.